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Great Style, Little Substance

Well, I heard most of President Obama's speech last night, but fortunately there were transcripts posted almost immediately that I could access. And as I listened, I remembered something I read over at Ace Of Spades, in the comments. Apparently Rush Limbaugh's latest insight is that Obama is a good speaker, but a bad communicator.

Coming from someone who I respect as a hell of a communicator (even if I don't care for his style), that's a superb insight. Because Obama's speech, stripped of his voice and delivery, was very lacking in actual content.

Before he spoke, I posted a baker's dozen list of questions I wanted answered. And I'm still left wondering about most of them.

1) What vital interest of the United States was threatened to justify ignoring the War Powers Act?

Well, we had citizens in Libya, but we promptly evacuated most of them when all this started. So there goes the Grenada precedent. Apart from that, it seems that Obama was worried about the "stain on the conscience" that would be caused by not intervening in a civil war.

2) What differentiates the situation in Libya from that in Syria or Yemen now, Iran in 2009, or Iraq in 2003?

Apparently this time Europe (which buys a LOT of oil from Libya) wanted us to intervene, and the Arab League kinda sorta said they'd like us to do it, too. At one point. So "doing dirty work for the Europeans and Arab League wants done, but isn't willing to take on themselves, by themselves" is the major difference here.

The UN and other nations have veto power over American foreign policy. Conversely, Congress and the American people have little to no say.

3) Why did Obama seek the approval of our allies and the UN before -- more accurately, in place of -- the approval of Congress and the American people?

It seems because "they asked," and Congress and we didn't.

4) What exactly differentiates a war from a "kinetic military action?" More specifically, from the perspective of the people being blown up?

Because Republican presidents are war-mongers, while Democratic presidents are humanitarians. Bombs dropped on Republican orders kill people, bombs dropped on Democratic orders save people. People killed by Republican bombs are innocent until proven guilty; people killed by Democratic bombs are guilty unless proven innocent -- and then are unavoidable casualties who died in a noble cause.

5) If there was such a rush to action that Congress and the American people couldn't be consulted, why did it take several weeks to start moving?

Because we had to try diplomacy first. We had to talk to other nations and the UN and K-Daffy himself in the hopes that, for once in his life, he'd respond to reason and appeals to his humanity and compassion and stop slaughtering his people. But once we were certain that our allies were behind us -- er, ahead of us -- and that K-Daffy was going to act pretty much like he had for 40 years, then we had to strike now, strike fast, and strike hard -- and there was no time to talk to Congress and the American people. Besides, what do they really count for, anyway? Obama already knew what they'd say.

6) Wouldn't it have been more effective to intervene when the rebels were winning, and not when they were on the verge of defeat?

The diplomatic phase was still going strong at that point. Hell, it even got K-Daffy to to agree to a ceasefire. Which he didn't bother to honor for a single second, but his saying he would was accepting it, so that was something.

7) Are there any other civil wars or purely internal conflicts that we are considering getting involved in?

Absolutely not. Unless we are, in which case only our allies and the UN are aware of it. Domestically, we'll have it explained to us in due time -- roughly a week or so after the Obama administration acts.

8)  If this crisis is so important, why does no one want to take responsibility for leading it?

Success has a thousand fathers, failure is an orphan. No one wants their fingerprints on this until it's clear that it will succeed. And "leadership" is a tough thing. It involves such icky concepts as "responsibility" and "accountability" and "judgment" and "decisions." The Community Organizer In Chief is far more used to simply bitching about situations and calling for vague "actions," then taking credit when others do the heavy lifting. That is a perfect model for this operation -- he "organized the international community" to address the problem, but isn't going to put his own status in jeopardy by doing anything substantive.

9) Is K-Daffy's removal still a requirement, as President Obama declared on March 21?

We're not targeting him, we're not demanding his ouster, but gosh darn it, wouldn't it be nifty if he happened to be under a bomb (purely by accident of course) or one of his people takes him out or he resigns? Not that we're trying to arrange that, of course -- that would be icky -- but we would be less than heartbroken if her were to leave office in some way or another.

10/11) What do we know about the people on whose behalf we are intervening? More specifically, how certain are we that they will be better than K-Daffy?

We're meeting with them,  and they seem like really nice fellas. Except for those that fought against us in Iraq, of course. And considering how bad K-Daffy is, how could they be worse? (Comparisons to Russia after World War I, Iran after the fall of the Shah, and South Vietnam not welcome.)

12) What, precisely, did you mean when you said the American military "was volunteered" for this action? Please address this in the context of your role as their commander-in-chief. Did you volunteer them? If not, who did?

They were apparently "volunteered" by the international community, and the fierce moral imperative to do something to stop the slaughter of civilians. Whether or not this would actually do any good, short-term or long-term, is an impertinent question. We are doing something, and that good intention is all that matters.

13) In December of 2003, Libya surrendered its entire WMD program. Later, it paid reparations for its terrorist acts and moved towards being a member of the international community. (Towards, I said.) The implicit quo for that quid was that we wouldn't invade and would let slide those offenses we'd been punishing them over for decades. With this current round of actions, how should other countries with illicit WMD programs (say, North Korea or Iran) act? Should they accept our word that if they start playing nice, we'll let them off the hook.

Because that was done under Bush, and Obama is not bound by any commitments -- implicit and explicit -- that Bush made. And even if he was, all Obama promises have an expiration date. The pledge that the United States made to stop treating K-Daffy like a major enemy went under the bus the instant it became inconvenient to keep that pledge, and there was some gain to be had by resuming the pre-2003 policies. "Opportunistic" is such an ugly word; we prefer "flexible" or "adaptable."

All in all, Obama's address was very inspiring, very eloquent, and filled with lofty ideals and platitudes and principles. But we've learned the hard way -- there is very little substance behind his words. He seems to honestly believe that if he just shows up and gives a good speech, that's all that's needed to resolve problems.

Up until now, it's worked pretty well. His career path (prior to January 2009) was nothing but jobs and positions where all he had to do was talk the talk, never having to walk the walk. He would become a great president through on-the-job training.

So far, he's failing at all the training.

And not only are we all paying the price for that, his "probationary period" has almost two years left in it.


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Comments (41)

"He would become a great pr... (Below threshold)

"He would become a great president through on-the-job training.

So far, he's failing at all the training."

Lucky for Him and us there is affirmative action. Just wait, the next 2 years Barry is gonna shine.

Another thing which I think... (Below threshold)

Another thing which I think of Jay is; what happens if we have some sort of violent uprising in the United States? Say an anarchist group begins attacking targets in the US and the Army and Air Force respond to restore order. Libya now sets the precedent that the UN would order a "No Fly Zone" over the continental US (Possibly enforced by Russia and China).

What happens if the shoe is on the other foot?

We have no business in Libya and especially have no business supporting Al Quiada in Libya. I keep asking myself where these "Rebels" are getting the guns, funding, organization and JETS? For the love of PETE they shot down their OWN JET, where do ragtag freedom fighters get JETS?

Houston, it's my understand... (Below threshold)

Houston, it's my understanding that the jets the rebels have used were "liberated" from the Libyan Air Force -- usually by their pilots. They took a couple of military bases -- with most of the hardware.


Well, the Mythbusters prove... (Below threshold)

Well, the Mythbusters proved you could shine a turd...


It's not inconceivable that Obama could become a great President... Very much against the odds, though.

However, even high odds occasionally hit. Someone won the MegaMillions jackpot this last Friday... I think Obama recovering is about on the same order.

When the rebels take a Gada... (Below threshold)

When the rebels take a Gadaffi town and slaughter his supporters, will we call in an air strike on them?

Then there was this little ... (Below threshold)
Peter F.:

Then there was this little gem from last night:

So while I will never minimize the costs involved in military action, I am convinced that a failure to act in Libya would have carried a far greater price for America.

Gee, that seems to be pulled right from some other president's arguments made few years back, yet that president was lambasted by leftists and accused of American imperialism, etc. This president? He gets a pass. Proof that the bombs with "D" on them are treated differently than with bombs with an "R" on them.

Jay,Thanks for the... (Below threshold)


Thanks for the clarification. That does make sense.

Keep up the great work.

What an Ego. "I ma... (Below threshold)

What an Ego.

"I made it clear that Gadhafi had lost the confidence of his people...."

"I said that he needed to step down..."

"I ordered warships..."

"And so, at my direction, America led an effort..."

"I refused to let that happen..."

"I authorized military action...."

Then we have his very own "Mission accomplished" statement:

"And tonight, I can report that we have stopped Gadhafi's deadly advance."

JLawson mentions that it's possible he could become a great president. In Obama's mind, I'm sure he already thinks he is.

That speech was all about O... (Below threshold)

That speech was all about Obama and his re-election in 2012. He is failing miserably in the polls here in the United States. His domestic agenda is in shambles, with ObamaCare (his major legislative win)headed for the crapper. So he had to do something. Well it looks like he is also failing in this endeavor. Even the state controlled media is questioning his motives, and the support of the state controlled media is crucial to his re-election.

Houston, it's important to ... (Below threshold)

Houston, it's important to keep in mind that the UN is not a judicial body, but a political one. It does not operate on the basis of precedent--never has, never will. So authorizing intervention in Libya does not imply that it has to happen elsewhere, save where the political will is sufficient. The United States could use its veto in your (rather absurd) hypothetical.

Stan, in which polls is he ... (Below threshold)

Stan, in which polls is he failing miserably? He's hardly doing a great job of communicating or leading at the moment, but at this point in his first term his approval and favourability ratings are Reaganesque/Clintonian--meaning, apart from one's personal distaste for the man, there isn't much reason to think he won't win a second term.


You can dispute the validity of the polls, or take issue with the internals, or what have you; but you did bring it up, and I'm genuinely curious to read the polls of which you speak.

Jay, many of arguments you ... (Below threshold)
Steve Crickmore:

Jay, many of arguments you opine against Obama´s timing are contradictory. If we had intervened at a more propitious military time, i.e. when the rebels had K-Daffy, on the run, Obama would have less time to make a case to the public, and most Republicans, especially your tea party wingnuts would be more indignant about providing an opening for al-Queda or the consequences of choosing ordinary Arabs fighting for their freedom against Daffites and foreign mercenaries who support ruthless dictators.

As it is, even with an impending whole scale slaughter of wowmen and children in the the rebel capital of Benghazi of eastern Libya, teaparty afficionados still wonder about the wisdom of the action, any action it seems, even in retrospect.

The result of a a Congressional vote looks prety academic anyway. The British Conservatives a minority government Parlimentary vote was overwhelming, asking for Parliament´s authorization of their military operations in concert with the US in Libya.

Steve, there's no contradic... (Below threshold)

Steve, there's no contradictions. I didn't think we should have intervened in Libya, but if we are going to, we do it to win.

If Obama had intervened when the rebels were winning, he would have had the "imminent" argument going for him. But he dawdled.

And Obama's acting because he's afraid Republicans might say mean things about him? He's letting his fear of Republican disapproval govern his actions? What kind of wimp do we have for Commander in Chief?


My only problem with the ac... (Below threshold)
DJ Drummond:

My only problem with the action, Steve, is that President Obama never asked for Congressional approval for the action. Not only did he not ask for formal approval by Congress, he did not even meet with the Speaker or Senate Majority Leaders, as every President before him has done before such actions. President Obama has therefore expanded the role and authority of the Executive Branch, ironically in a manner he directly opposed just a few years ago.

The thing that strikes me as the most alarming, is that the President does not seem to understand the implications of what he has done. Military action because you feel like it ... wasn't that something we should avoid?

"The result of a a Congress... (Below threshold)

"The result of a a Congressional vote looks prety (sic) academic anyway."

One is left breathless. A pure "polished turd" (thanks #4) explaining the arrogant Leftist/Progressive (or whatever they call themselves these days) elitist view of how a representative government should function. See, legislative deliberation on matters of war is actually just "academic" since we (the enlightened Philosopher Kings) have already decided the outcome of the vote using our special powers to see into the future!

A sentence like that one above requires authorship by someone with at least a graduate degree in a rigorous humanities discipline, such as Peace Studies. Remember, the media, education, NGO, arts/entertainment collectives have been invaded and conquered by this kind of "thinking." Will an armed revolution be required to return the USA to a sane societal model? The future will be interesting!

God how I enjoy the mindless blathering of the trolls on this site. Who says humor is dead?

I am really curious on how ... (Below threshold)

I am really curious on how acting in Libya is in the best interest of the United States. Personally, I feel this is more of Europe's problem then ours and they can handle it. Once again, the UN means the US.

My problem with the action ... (Below threshold)

My problem with the action is the commander and chief's heart and mind is not in the action. He is conducting a political maneuver. Our troops deserve much better then that. I would rather them stay out of it.

And the coalition? What a joke. We are doing the heavy lifting. I think canada committed to bringing the lug nuts for the jeeps. ww

Jay, you goddamn communist ... (Below threshold)

Jay, you goddamn communist pinko, heathen, put out the doobie. Stop bad mouthing your country, and get behind this war sanctioned by almighty god.

to paraphrase a line from t... (Below threshold)

to paraphrase a line from the Dirty Dozen ...

those are pretty words you've got there, but can they fight ...

"No blood for oil, especial... (Below threshold)

"No blood for oil, especially Euroweenie oil."

Between all the straw dogs the (P)resident threw out there were NO compelling reasons to start open armed conflict in Libya. Hell, we would be involved in ALL of Africa and a lot of what used to be SW Russia by his standard.

Willie, there are Canadian ... (Below threshold)

Willie, there are Canadian fighters and bombers involved. You're misinformed--quelle surprise.

This "political manoeuvre" has eliminated Ghaddafi's ability to fire tank shells and drop bombs at/onto his own people.

But if you ask a right-winger, Clinton's intervention in the Balkans was also purely political, whereas Reagan's meddling in Latin America, and the second invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq had nothing to do with politics. All about spreading freeance and peeance (but not for Libyans, or Albanians...)

We train with the Canadian ... (Below threshold)

We train with the Canadian Air Force regularly. Hyper would appreciate that. I think we called it Maple Flag (as opposed to Red Flag, etc.) They are a part of this coalition. They just aren't allowed to write anti-Muslim epithets on their bombs.

Wouldn't it have been mo... (Below threshold)
Tina S:

Wouldn't it have been more effective to intervene when the rebels were winning, and not when they were on the verge of defeat?

Jay, remember Iraq. We were very effective at toppling saddam in like a day, but we had too few of our troops and too small a coalition to keep the peace. This ultimately led to a much longer war and far more casualities. So the answer is no, it would have been reckless & less effective to go it alone when we don't have enough troops to send in to keep the peace.

epador, are you joking?! Do... (Below threshold)

epador, are you joking?! Do people actually do that? What would a Muslim Air Force pilot think of some lowlife red neck writing anti-Muslim epithets on their ordnance?

Anyway, that's the first I've heard of Americans training Canadian pilots. They don't fly the same aircraft (not until those stupid F-35s are delivered, anyway), and Canada has a history of training pilots from other Commonwealth nations. Could be wrong, though, and I definitely don't care either way.

hyperbolist,Is it ... (Below threshold)


Is it really that far fetched to think that eventually other countries will view us as weak enough to think they can dictate how we need to handle our internal affairs?

No, the UN doesn't follow legal precedent, but unless you aren't watching what's going on around here, our officials in government are NOT following the constitution OR the will of the people. My point was, we are interfering in another country's civil war, where there ARE NO GOOD GUYS. What happens when freedom is crushed by the same excuse?

You are correct, we do have veto power at the UN, so my example there was bad, but do you at least understand my point?

This whole thing smells of ... (Below threshold)

This whole thing smells of a rat.

Now it is being reported that Qadaffy is being given a deal to be exiled with NO PROSECUTION and the US is on board. That means he gets away with murdering Americans once again.

The only reason to arm these rebels it to give them the ammo to then attack Israel. Samantha Powers who supposedly talked Obama into attacking Libya is on record saying that Israel needs to be attacked.

Obama has made it clear to anyone who wants to kill Americans, GO AHEAD WITHOUT ANY RAMIFICATIONS. Especially if you are Christian, just like the 4 people killed near Somalia.

Houston, the United States ... (Below threshold)

Houston, the United States has a veto. So do its allies, none of which would stand to benefit from the sort of scenario you outlined in your hypothetical.

As for not following the Constitution, the President is not required to get Congressional authorization for this sort of action. A prolonged invasion of another country, yes, but not this type of action. Would have been the right thing to do, though.

As for there being "no good guys" in Libya, what's the basis for that statement? The anti-Ghaddafi forces might not be comprised solely of angels and saints but then they're certainly not worse than the Shiite majority that emerged in Iraq, nor some other dictators that the United States (or Britain) have propped up in recent memory.

hyper, as a Canadian you're... (Below threshold)

hyper, as a Canadian you're forgiven for not knowing American law. Under the War Powers Resolution, the president can only engage in military conflicts without Congressional approval when there is a direct, imminent threat to the US or our interests. Obama is on record as saying that no such circumstances existed here, and he is absolutely correct.


Well here's a bleeding-hear... (Below threshold)

Well here's a bleeding-heart solution to the perceived legal problem: demonstrate that human rights are something that the United States values even when its own economic interests are not in jeopardy.

epador, are you joking?!... (Below threshold)
James Cloninger:

epador, are you joking?! Do people actually do that? What would a Muslim Air Force pilot think of some lowlife red neck writing anti-Muslim epithets on their ordnance?

1. Yes, they do that...been doing that since WW I.

2. Well, probably just before said ordnance detonated in his left wing, he's think "Allahu Ackbar" or "Oh, FUCK!". A couple of seconds later, he's not thinking at all.

3. And if said ordnance is ... (Below threshold)
James Cloninger:

3. And if said ordnance is wrapped in bacon like an explosive hot dog, that's a bonus.

<a href="http://en.wikipedi... (Below threshold)

BTDTBTTS, hyper. Come to think of it, it was the last time we had a Democratic president who'd never actually served in the military. I generally think it's a good idea to learn from mistakes.

But feel free to try it yourself. See if you still think so after a few Canadian soldiers' mutilated corpses are dragged naked through the streets of Tripoli.


hyperbolist,You ar... (Below threshold)


You are correct. I concede the fact that the US and our allies have a veto in the UN and that my hypothetical situation is far fetched.

Please do not continue to confuse my arguments with others, I did not bring up the constitution, so beating me over the head with that is unfounded.

Your response about our sins of the past explains everything I need to know. Consider our conversation over, I won't waste any more of your time.

Hyper: The human rights of... (Below threshold)

Hyper: The human rights of the Iraqi people weren't enough justification to oust Hussein, but those of the Libyan people are? Is that your argument?

Yes, SCSI. Hussein wasn't m... (Below threshold)

Yes, SCSI. Hussein wasn't murdering his people en masse in 2003. Iraq was a stable dictatorship, whereas Libya featured a civil war with anti-government activists armed with light arms and assorted small artillery pitted hopelessly against government forces equipped with jet aircraft, tanks, and heavy weapons.

Jay, sorry, but humanitarian intervention implies some good guys dying. It's a volunteer armed forces. Lots of Canadians have died in Afghanistan, and for the period of time when they were actually fighting Al Qaeda, and not pissed-off locals, it wasn't difficult to justify the loss of life to the Canadian public.

hyperbolist: "Iraq was ... (Below threshold)
DJ Drummond:

hyperbolist: "Iraq was a stable dictatorship"

So, just to be clear ...

A regime which has fired on U.S. aircraft and ships, known to have had - and used - WMD in recent history, pursuing nuclear weapon technology, having attempted the assassination of a U.S. President, and in direct violation of numerous parts of a cease-fire, is not to be attacked, while

A regime which has not attacked neighboring countries or U.S. vessels in 2+ decades, whose leader renounced WMD and turned over technology to the IAEA and which represents no effective military threat to the region, is to be bombed and strafed, because ...

Why, precisely? What vital U.S. interest was at stake in Libya that was more grave and legitimate than U.S. interests in the Iraq war?

You are quite right to note that wars are not trivial things, and anyone who has out-grown the XBox mentality knows that military action often brings on unexpected consequences and implications. We may (and have) debated Iraq, but frankly to pretend that our actions in Libya are morally or strategically superior to the invasion of Iraq, is to be willfully blind and dishonest.

Nothing in that first full ... (Below threshold)

Nothing in that first full paragraph warrants a full-scale ground invasion. The AA guns that fired on U.S. planes could be destroyed from the air. As for having previously killed his own people, and previously possessed and used WMDs, they no longer had any. And as for failing to assassinate a U.S. President, so? They failed, and they were isolated from the global community. As others have pointed out here, Saddam could have been bought out and moved to some shithole palace in another shithole dictatorship with his sons and died in exile, and 4,000+ U.S. servicepeople and 100,000+ Iraqis would still be alive.

I'm personally uninterested in what benefit the actions in Libya might have for your country. There were certainly direct and indirect economic benefits for certain parties to be had due to the invasion and occupation of Iraq, but Iraq wasn't a threat to the United States. Oil companies and defense contractors did quite well, of course. There is some remote possibility that Iraq might have some day inflicted harm on the American nation, but the risk posed was nowhere near as significant a threat as, say, cancer, drunk driving, or workplace accidents.

uh-uh, hyper, you're... (Below threshold)
DJ Drummond:

uh-uh, hyper, you're trying to change the subject. You clearly claimed the action against Libya is valid, while the war against Iraq was not, and you implied both moral and strategic superiority. The argument is not whether we should or should not have gone into Iraq, but what evidence exists to claim that the action against Libya is either morally or strategically superior to the action against Iraq.

You don't get to change the conditions, blame Bush for this one, or backtrack on your claim just three comments ago. If you are not wrong you have to support your contention with substance.

There wasn't a moral justif... (Below threshold)

There wasn't a moral justification for Iraq, and that adventure cost your country, what, a trillion dollars? So there wasn't much of an economic benefit either, and it wasn't in your nation's best interests in terms of national security.

Whereas, Ghaddafi's actions against his people warrant the use of violence to render further actions impossible. The same could have been said about Saddam when he was gassing Kurds, and perhaps it was (I was a child at the time), but nobody did anything. That's not in and of itself a reason to not help Libyans.

Poison gas, rape rooms and ... (Below threshold)

Poison gas, rape rooms and feeding children into industrial shredders while their parents watched != moral justification to oust Hussein.
OK Hyper.

Ousting Hussein != sending ... (Below threshold)

Ousting Hussein != sending 150,000 soldiers and pissing away a trillion dollars, SCSI. Retire the fucker to some shitty place and let him die harmlessly and ignominously.






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